India may have won the opening ODI at the Harare Sports Club, but it definitely wasn’t in the manner they would have liked. In fact, they only scraped through to victory in the very last over of the match. Had it not been for the partnership between Ambati Rayudu and Stuart Binny, India might not have been able to cross even the 200 mark. Their top and middle order batting was extremely poor. Even with the ball, Axar Patel and Bhuvneshwar Kumar were economical, but the rest need to pull up their socks.
Although India ended up on the winning side, there are a lot of aspects they need to improve as they take on Zimbabwe on Sunday in an endeavour to claim the series 2-0. In the first ODI, they lost their first five wickets for under 100. A lot of players who were looking to establish themselves got a chance in the opening match, but failed to seize their opportunity. They will need to make amends on Sunday. After all, this is only a three-match series, and if they do not perform, they might not get many more chances as the regulars return.
Murali Vijay is among the players who has been given an opportunity as the other openers have been rested. In spite of having established himself in the Test side, Vijay has somehow struggled to repeat his success in the one-day format. He is yet to even register a half-century in the format. The likes of Manoj Tiwary, Robin Uthappa and Kedar Jadhav all fell in single-figure scores in the last game. Tiwary and Uthappa have tasted success briefly in ODIs before but they need to establish themselves. As for Jadhav, he needs to perform to keep his hope alive.
The match was also a challenge for Ajinkya Rahane, the captain for the series, who admitted being nervous. His uncertainty showed in his batting, as he departed after getting a start. Rahane will be further tested on Sunday. India’s bowling in the opening game was also a mixed bag. Bhuvneshwar and Axar bowled accurately, and were also among the wickets. But, the performance of Dhawal Kulkarni was disappointing. Also, Harbhajan Singh did not have an exceedingly impressive comeback, managing only one wicket.
While Zimbabwe will be disappointed that they allowed India to crawl back after having them on the back foot, they would, at the same time, be pleased that they competed with the hosts. Chamu Chibhabha was brilliant on the day with the ball, well supported by Donald Tiripano. With the bat, Elton Chigumbura came up with a smashing century, but the team failed due to lack of support from the others.
--By A Cricket Analyst